Honeycrisp Apple Pie. White-Oak Smoked Bacon. And Farmstead Chevre. Oh, My!

The Heartland has become, once again, a garden of eatin’!
In upcoming blog posts, I’ll highlight Midwest food artisans that really strut their delicious stuff. These Indiana food finds are well worth a detour—or a point and click—to visit.
Capriole. In southern Indiana, Judith Schad led the way, making her award-winning, artisan goat cheese since the late 1970s. Try their fresh chevre or their aged Old Kentucky Tomme and Wabash Cannonball.

Claus’ German Sausage & Meat. Claus Muth’s bacon is double smoked over white oak, so bacon-lovers make a special trip to this Indianapolis, Indiana store, just for the bacon. (317) 632-1963. www.clausgermansausageandmeats.com

Golden Run Sorghum. This rich, brown sorghum made in Camden, Indiana, is offered for sale by Prophetstown, a historic, non-profit working farm in Brookston, Indiana.  A mixture of sorghum, fresh lime juice, garlic, and a little vegetable oil makes a great grilling glaze for duck breast, chicken, or pork.

Locally Grown Gardens and Bakery. This charming Indianapolis store showcases local produce, some of it heirloom varieties, a great pulled pork sandwich, and fabulous homemade pies—especially their Sugar Cream Pie and Honeycrisp Apple! Local chef Ron Harris has a devoted following.

Two Cookin’ Sisters. Kristi Robinson Rensberger and Kim Robinson are the two cookin’ sisters who make up-tempo jams, jellies, salsas, and condiments in Brookston, Indiana. Try Grannie’s Garden Tangy Tomato Jam—spread it over a baked flatbread dough, then top with fresh herbs and shavings of a Wisconsin Parmesan for a fabulous appetizer. (765) 563-7377.

Red, White, and Blue

“On a picnic morning, without a warning,” goes the opening song of the 1955 film “Picnic,” which was filmed in the Hutchinson/Halstead area of south central Kansas. When you’re yearning for a little bit of summer or a bit of adventure, make this portable dessert that you can bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or a Fourth of July celebration.
With a nod to fresh cream and berry treats beloved by those of Scandinavian descent, this no-bake dessert features a homemade blackberry syrup flavored with a little lavender (from your garden or favorite herb emporium). Just a little bit of lavender makes the berries taste, well, “berrier.”   The Blackberry Lavender Syrup is also good over shaved ice for a wonderful snow cone, or over pancakes and waffles. The cheesecake-flavored  topping holds up well in the heat.
Canning jars are the new compotes, so buy a dozen in the canning section of the grocery or hardware store and use them over and over again. Use this recipe as a template with other fresh fruits and good quality syrups (fresh peaches with almond syrup, raspberries with raspberry syrup--you get the picture). 
Summer in a Jar

Serves 8 to 12

Blackberry Lavender Syrup
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 cup blackberry jam
Fresh lemon juice

2 cups cubed, frozen and thawed pound cake
2 cups fresh blueberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries or a mix
1 cup Blackberry Lavender Syrup, plus more for drizzling
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh mint or lemon balm sprigs to garnish

1.  In a large, microwave-safe glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, water, and lavender. Microwave on high until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the blackberry jam. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with lemon juice, strain the mixture into a bowl, and let cool.  Use right away or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
2. Divide the cubed cake or cookie crumbs among 8 half-pint canning jars or place in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Arrange the fruit over the cake or cookie crumbs. Drizzle the individual canning jars with 1 tablespoon syrup or use all in the trifle bowl.
3. Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Divide the mixture among the canning jars and spoon over the fruit or spoon all over the fruit in the trifle bowl. (Can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated up to 24 hours before serving.) Serve chilled or at room temperature drizzled with a little more syrup. Garnish with a sprig of mint of lemon balm, if you like.

Staycation! Tasty tour of the Heartland in just 6 minutes. Listen in.

Easy BBQ for Summertime Fun

I just got back from the IACP Conference in Austin, Texas.  One memorable dinner, hosted by The Lisa Ekus Group, had us sitting under a huge oak tree on the grounds of the old Hotel Saint Cecilia , a secluded estate with rock star clientele. 

What did we eat at those long tables?  Barbecue, of course.  Texas-style, from the famous Lambert’s. That’s a true alfresco experience!  

Here’s a fresh bbq idea—outdoor/indoor smoke-roasted pork shoulder or butt. It’s a dish that rewards in many ways.  It’s easy on the cook, as you can do the smoke-roasting outdoors in late afternoon, then put the pork in the oven indoors to slow cook overnight. (If the weather is bad, you can do the whole thing in the oven.) The fat in the meat keeps it moist, even if you overcook it, which is difficult to do. You can slice and serve it on a platter or pull it apart to serve on sandwiches. And pork shoulder or butt is inexpensive. What more can we ask of a dish?  The Sooey Sauce is equally rewarding.  You simply thin a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce with a few ingredients and people will think you slaved all day.  You can freeze any leftovers. Serve this with your favorite slaw.

Smoke-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Sooey Sauce
(adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook)
Serves 12
Two 3-1/2 lb. boneless pork butts or shoulder
1 cup prepared mustard
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup smoked or sweet Hungarian paprika           
2 tablespoons granulated garlic or garlic powder    
2 tablespoons onion salt        
2 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar      
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard          
1 1/2 tablespoons celery seeds         
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder         
3 cups hardwood chips, 3 wood chunks, or 3 (3-inch diameter) sticks (mesquite, hickory, oak)

Sooey Sauce:
1 cup spicy tomato barbecue sauce, such as KC Masterpiece or Whole Foods 365
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons clover or wildflower honey

1.  Slather the pork butts with mustard. Combine the pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, onion salt, brown sugar, dry mustard, celery seeds, and chili powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle this rub all over the pork butts. Place the pork in a disposable aluminum pan. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes or until the surface of the meat is tacky to the touch.

2. Prepare an indirect fire, with a hot fire on one side and no fire on the other.

3. For a charcoal grill, scatter the wood chips/chunks/sticks on the charcoal. For a gas grill,  place wood chips in a smoker box or a foil packet poked with holes near a gas burner on a gas grill.  When you see the first wisp of smoke, place the pork on the indirect side of the grill and close the lid. Smoke-roast for 2 to 3 hours, adding more charcoal as necessary, or until it has a darkened crust or bark and a good smoky aroma.

4. Transfer the pork indoors to a 250°F oven. Loosely cover the meat with foil and roast for 8 to 12 hours or until you can insert a meat fork in the pork and easily twist it.
 Note:  In bad weather, you can still make this indoors. Just start out at 350°F oven for 2 hours, then lower to 250°F for another 8 to 12 hours or until you can do the twist test.

5. Stir the Sooey Sauce ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until just warmed through. To serve the pork, shred the meat, discarding any fat or gristle. If you like, add a little sauce to the meat. Serve the pulled pork with the remaining sauce at the table.